Industry and government legal experts are enhancing University of Wyoming College of Law efforts to prepare students for careers in the fields of energy and natural resources.
The UW College of Law Natural Resources and Policy Initiative recently brought together representatives of six key energy companies with significant presence in Wyoming, the governor's office, the state attorney general's office, the state legislature, the Wyoming Supreme Court, and the Wyoming Bar.
"As the only college of law in the highest energy-exporting state in the nation, we strive to become the law school of choice for those seeking legal careers in the energy and natural resources fields," says Stephen D. Easton, Dean and UW College of Law professor.
Involving experts who are involved in the public and private sectors of natural resource law practice is enhancing the college's curriculum to produce qualified, practice-ready, graduates.
Parties represented at the college's initiative may find themselves involved at one time or another in a case before Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kite, who earned J.D. degree from UW in 1974. Kite, an initiative participant, says the kind of interaction she observed will enhance learning opportunities for College of Law students.
"I wish I could go to law school again," Kite says. "The diversity in terms of subject matter areas and the experience we're gaining from this discussion will translate to the curriculum itself and make the law school better than it already is in the area of natural resource education."
As the energy business is a major contributor to Wyoming's economy, Kite says the initiative shows that College of Law graduates who want to stay in the state have unlimited opportunities in many areas in that business, not just in the courts.
By focusing on interdisciplinary natural resources law and policy capabilities within the university, the institution will serve as an outreach resource for state government, the citizens of Wyoming, and the natural resources industries of the state, according to initiative participants.
Mark Moench, Rocky Mountain Power senior vice president and general counsel says the UW College of Law is on the right track of getting students and faculty focusing on the need to have a balance between energy and environmental interests concerning natural resources.
"As a company, we have viewed the academic arena as the place to start a balanced discussion," Moench says.
Moench says UW offers students interested in natural resources law a great advantage in that state support is strong and that the curriculum involves other programs at the university, such as the School of Energy Resources.
One student who is taking advantage of the opportunities at UW is initiative participant Crystal McDonough of Laramie. A second year law student and dual degree candidate in the School of Environment and Natural Resources, she also has a graduate assistantship with the School of Energy Resources.
"It's been a fantastic experience, very unique," McDonough says of her natural resource law interdisciplinary track and participation in the initiative. "Listening to all these distinguished attorneys and leaders in our community has been very inspiring."
"I encourage students and prospective students to take advantage of the resources available," she adds. "The college has five incredible natural resource professors, get involved with them, and get to know them. Talk to the dean find and find out how to get involved. Talk to the School of Energy Resources. Talk to the School of Environment and Natural Resources. There are so many programs and so many ways students can get involved."